Halloween


All right folks, I don’t want to spend much more time than I already have in the theatre on the badly mishandled enterprise that is Rob Zombie’s re-imagining of one of the all-time horror classics. Simply said, his “Halloween” is boring, mostly nondescript, obsessed with blood, free of character development and ultimately very disappointing.

The quality of Zombie’s film output seems to be on a sharp slide: there was a jarring difference in style, thrust and focus between his explosive debut House of a 1000 Corpses, in 2003 (a solid 3 stars for this writer) and his follow-up The Devil’s Rejects, two years later. House was back roads horror in the tradition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes: it was hardcore, nasty and raw, but if you’re not going the more psychological route of, say, The Blair Witch Project or The Mothman Prophecies, sometimes that’s the way horror films should be. It was rather gory, within limits, but the horror came mostly from the predicament of being trapped by the Firefly family. House developed a sense of the morbid and the macabre turning into a horribly nightmarish experience, featuring a standout performance by Erin Daniels, while Rejects had a vastly different visual style and narrative structure. It was at best a two-star film, but Halloween falls even further down the scale.

This new “Halloween” deflates reasonable hopes right from the start: the abusive stepfather is a tired example of the worst kind of trailer park trash, and there’s a severe lack of insight into the broken psyche of the already disturbed 10 year-old Michael Myers (he starts by killing and mutilating pets. Perhaps a haircut would have saved everybody a lot of trouble – what’s up with that hair?). After violently attacking and killing a bully after school, Michael slaughters his stepfather, his big sister and her boyfriend (his mom and the baby are spared). We then move forward 15 years to the escape from the asylum and the return to Haddonfield. There’s not much to say about Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), but that’s saying something in itself: Zombie doesn’t show any real interest in the characters: he seems content to set up a string of mechanical killings (Tyler Mane has no chance to show emotion as the adult Michael).

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There’s a lot of self-referential casting from the previous films of the director: sometimes that can be fun, but in such a weak film it feels like a gimmicky checklist. Look, it’s Ken Foree as a jovial trucker. Wow, here’s Danny Trejo, unfortunately not as Machete, but as a janitor at the asylum. There’s Sid Haig as the graveyard man. And how clever is that, Danielle Harris (little Jamie in Halloween IV and V) is in there for like three minutes as one of Laurie’s sassy friends. If I’m not mistaken, I counted 16 murders; in the order they happen, they started being awfully repetitive and predictable at about the seventh one; in short, we see way too much of Michael, and that robs him of the mystique he had in John Carpenter’s 1978 classic.

There’s also a weird, brief moment where the movie shifts into an almost shot for shot, word for word remake of the original. Malcolm McDowell turns out to be a faulty choice to play Dr. Loomis, a character pretty much as iconic as Michael himself for fans of the franchise. Whereas Loomis was played with semi-camp gravity by Donald Pleasence, who said almost all his lines with a hint of fatality, McDowell conveys a mannered psychologist with unclear motivations (he’s on the lecture circuit, with a book on his experience trying to understand the silent madman). His tone feels unnatural, and the script provides him with distracting touches of throwaway humour. Sheri Moon Zombie is the film’s lone bright spot as a mother still caring about her son (Daeg Faerch), while desperately trying to understand why he turned so brutally violent. Her portrayal is as mastered and affecting as can be in the circumstances. Michael’s use of masks as psychological crutches from a young age has some potential, but it’s not nearly as looked into as it could have been. At some point, Michael’s behaviour is referred to as being the result of a “perfect storm” of interior and exterior factors, but don’t get your hopes up for any meaningful answers.

Review by Jean-François Tremblay

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The Nanny Diaries


If you ever sat through an anthropology class and dreaded every minute of it, do yourself a favor and skip “The Nanny Diaries”. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini‘s adaptation of the best-selling novel cries out for laughs and surprises, mostly trying to score as a social satire but unequivocally failing to do so. All we’re left with in the end is a 106-minute humdrum case study of how New York’s Upper East Side moms hideously miseducate their children.

In case you let the trailers fool you and come to the movie expecting a hilarious comedy, you’re in for a major disappointment. There’s not a single scene in the movie that will provoke more than a forced smile, and that’s mostly because nothing happens. Even Scarlett Johansson, who for many moviegoers is reason alone to put up with pretty much anything, looks mostly lost and confused, wrestling with a role that just doesn’t fit her.

Johansson stars as Annie Braddock, a small-town business graduate with no specific career plans, no goals and frankly, no ambition. She thinks it’s time for her to leave home, but she’s too afraid of the unknown. She likes anthropology, and prefers to look at the world the same way she looks at exhibits in the Museum of Natural History. Comfortable, isn’t it?

But when she gets a shot at a job in Manhattan, Annie digs up some courage and rushes to an interview at Goldman Sachs. Things don’t turn out the way she expected, and next thing she’s sitting at Central Park drowning in self-pity. That’s when she accidentally runs into young Grayer, whose mom Mrs. X (Laura Linney) is in desperate need for a new nanny. And before Annie gets the chance to say anything, she’s hired.

And that’s all for that. What follows is Annie observing Mrs. X’s unacceptable lifestyle and following her everyday commands. In addition to that, there’s the kid to look after, the ominous Mr. X (Paul Giamatti) to avoid, and the attractive next-door neighbor “Harvard Hottie” (Chris Evans) to turn down, since the mistress literally forbids the nanny to engage in a social life.

Yes, all she does is observing, and yes, that’s what anthropologists often do. Expect Annie to stand up to Mrs. X’s terror? Not this time. In this movie, nanny gets an order, nanny delivers, and if yelled at, nanny sits back and looks mousy. At the center of the plot lies Annie’s quest for self-confidence, and in this regard, the movie completes its mission. It is great for Annie to find herself, but is it equally exciting for us to watch her succeed? I don’t think so.

Johansson usually delivers a fabulous performance in pretty much any project she stars, but here she portrays a character that’s slightly too diffident for her standards. Linney, on the other hand, is a perfect casting choice for the tough role of Mrs. X, and eight-year-old Nicholas Art couldn’t be better as the little kid who wins the nanny’s heart. Chris Evans only has a few moments not to impress, and Alicia Keys‘ role as Annie’s buddy is completely unnecessary.

Pulcini and Bergman crafted a true masterpiece with “American Splendor,” so it’s all the more mysterious to me why they chose to take on a project with such a strong lack of subtlety and depth. Calling “The Nanny Diaires” a total bore would be unfair though, and the film indeed comprises a selection of watchable scenes and dialogue, particularly between Annie and Gayor. A cheesy soundtrack and banal direction don’t help make these diaries more intriguing. Where was Mary Poppins when we needed her most?

Review by Franck Tabouring

War


“War” sounds fantastic as long as you’re not a part of it. Sure, the idea of Jason Statham and Jet Li battling it out on the big screen is undeniably tempting, but now that the movie is out in theatres, all you get for your money and interest is, well…nothing. Instead of hitting us with continuous fighting sequences and thrilling high-speed pursuits, Philip G. Atwell‘s feature film debut spends an eternity building up an intrigue that never explodes.

FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) is pissed. His shoulder is still recovering from a bullet he caught during a shoot-out with some bad guys and now he also has to cope with the death of his longtime partner Tom, who together with his family has been brutally assassinated by a ruthless Yakuza named Rogue (Li).

What Crawford didn’t expect is that his quest for revenge would get a little trickier than expected. A man of many faces, Rogue is in the process of settling a score of his own, provoking a massive war between Yakuza boss Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi) and Triad leader Chang (John Lone).

“War” is doomed from the beginning for so many reasons, but the script by Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley is certainly the movie’s largest flaw. Not only is the plot brainless, but it also misses its target. You would expect the film to center on Statham and Li tearing each other into pieces, but in truth, all you get to watch is how skillfully Rogue sets up the Yakuza against the Triads, and vice versa. At one stage you’ll even lose track of events because you just don’t care anymore. Not that you ever have.

Okay, so we got Li screwing over the Chinese and Japanese, and Statham showing up at bloody crime scenes looking for Rogue; now, where does that leave the action?

It takes about 40 minutes for something to happen, and BANG, there we are absorbing yet another disappointment. Instead of supplying the audience with visually spectacular stunts à la “Kiss of the Dragon” and “The Transporter”, Atwell and crew only offer a selection of lame shoot-outs and banal moves, which were miserably choreography by martial arts expert Corey Yuen. A bone-crushing finale, maybe? Big negative on that one too, which leaves the impression that the screenwriters ran out of ideas or the production ran out of budget.

Not much can be said about performances, because there really aren’t any. “War” occasionally tries to go soft on us and spread out some emotions via Statham’s character, but hey, nobody gives a hoot. And as for Li, he wears black sunglasses and a black dress all throughout the movie anyway, mostly standing there like a robot trying to play it cool and enjoying his game of betrayal. Well, that makes at least one who’s enjoying himself.

Review by Franck Tabouring

Shoot ‘Em Up


What if you took the scene in Hard-Boiled where Tequila is shooting a bunch of bad guys while holding a baby, and extended it to 90 minutes? That’d be awesome, right?

What if you cast Clive Owen in a part that reminds of both his turns in Children of Men (running around chaos and violence with a baby) and Sin City (cynical, noir-like antihero teaming up with a prostitute with whom he has a complicated history)? That would certainly rock, right?

What if you had Paul Giamatti playing a truly vicious villain and yelling stuff like “Fuck me sideways!”? Too cool for school, right?

So the movie’s an almost non-stop series of shoot ’em ups, and it’s not only riffing on John Woo’s Hong Kong flicks but cranking up the action until it becomes quite literally a madcap cartoon, with Owen doing his best Bugs Bunny, eating carrots and saying “What’s up, doc?” while being chased relentlessly by Giamatti’s Elmer Fudd/Yosemite Sam type… Sounds like endless fun, right?

And no live-free-or-die-PG-13 bullshit, there’s blood splashing everywhere, corpse humor à la Bad Boys II and Monica Bellucci as a “lactating hooker”! This gotta kick ass, right?

Well… yeah… I guess… I mean, I did have a good time, but… Understand, I’m not about to lament the preposterous plot, the sadistic undercurrent or the cheesy one-liners. I’m an action movie fan, I actually dig those things! I’m not bothered by the lip service on the gun control issue either. “Shoot ‘Em Up” pretty much has only one thing on its mind, and it does it well enough.

The reason why I remain slightly ambivalent is that either my expectations were too high, or the movie itself promises more than it delivers. As a straight B-movie action flick, there’s no question that it’s got it going on. But there’s this sense of it going for a self-aware spin on the genre, while at the same time paying homage to it and maybe even outdoing its inspirations. Alas, unlike filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino or Edgar Wright, whose movies brilliantly assimilate and subvert genre conventions, Michael Davis is content with turning up the volume and adding a few silly flourishes. He’s got the thunder, but he doesn’t quite have the lighting, you know?

Radha Mitchell: Queen of Love

As written by Allison Burnett and directed by Robert Benton, “Feast of Love” is kind of a mixed bag, as rom-com ensemble films tend to be (see also: “Playing by Heart”, “Love Actually”, etc.). Still, Radha Mitchell gives a truly great performance in it, so I jumped on the opportunity to talk to her over the phone about it.

“Bonjour, ça va?”

Oui, ça va! Vous parlez français?
“No, just “bonjour” and “ça va”… Let’s do it in English!”

Ok! So where are you calling from?
“From Los Angeles.”

Do you still go back to Australia a bit?
“I actually live here, but I do go back. So I’ll be back there at Christmastime, to see the folks… And I actually shot a film there recently. It’s an Australian film called “Rogue”, I think it’s coming out here in October.”

About “Feast of Love”, I —
“Where are you from?”

I’m from Montreal.
“Yeah? I have to go to Montreal, I’ve never been.”

Oh you should, it’s a great city.
“So, the question…”

Right. In “Feast of Love”, there’s a debate going on about whether love is just “nature’s trick to bring more screaming babies into this world” or if it’s “everything, the only meaning in this crazy dream”. What side would you say you are more partial to?
“Is it just a biological drive, or does it exist on a spiritual level… I think both. Contemporary culture would have you believe that sex is the most important thing in the world, but that sort of nihilistic view devoid of any sense of love or compassion is not particularly fulfilling. So I would say that love is the thing that we crave. Perhaps physical passion is what drives us, at least initially, but maybe we’re really confused and what we really really really want is love.”

So you do believe in romance and true love?
“I don’t believe that there’s only one true love, ultimately your relationship is with yourself. But when you choose to commit with somebody and spend your life with them, I think that’s one of the most beautiful things.”

I also found interesting the saying in the film about how the gods were bored so they invented love, then they invented laughter so they could stand it. Do you agree with that too?
“Yes! We get very entangled in our passions and they seem so serious to us, and it’s so interesting having this narrator who’s more experienced and has lived longer than most of the characters in this story, because he’s seen it all before. There’s so much of it that we do or that we think is important that has been done before and will happen again, it just kind of repeats itself in a cycle of life through the generations. It is funny if you can sort of sit back and look at it, while you’re in the crisis or whatever it is that you think is breaking your heart. That gives you some kind of perspective, in order to live with this, I guess.”

Regarding movies in particular, do you think that love stories should be dramas or comedies?
“I got this question a lot when I did this Woody Allen movie that was half tragedy, half comedy… There’s a part of me that feels much more engaged in the dramatic version of life. Laughing at it is much easier to tolerate but somehow, without taking it as seriously, it seems to mean less. Personally, at this stage in my life, I like the drama.”

Ok, so you saw my follow-up question coming about “Melinda and Melinda”, which is one of my favorite movies of the last few years, I thought you were amazing in it and–
“Oh, thank you!”

I thought that in “Feast of Love”, there’s some kind of connection with that performance. In the scenes with Greg Kinnear, it’s more light and comedic, but then your character has this darker, self-destructive affair with a married man.
“That’s interesting… I hadn’t put it in my mind that way, but I had felt that the character’s connection to Greg Kinnear’s character was in that lightness, what she liked about him was his innocence and that was what attracted her to him, that she could find her own innocence through him in a way. The other relationship was sort of, yeah, you know, self-destructive, intense, passionate kind of thing, like a compulsion. It was more serious in a way, and in some ways, more who she intrinsically was.”

It’s a very complex character. She says at some point that she has impossibly high standards and that she’s down to looking for an absence of disqualifiers —
“Well, she’s become, I think, perhaps because of in some ways being unfulfilled, she has developed a cynical edge… There may be something that you really want, but it might appear to be bad to you, so you try to pick a more kind of even road and it feels somewhat like a compromise. Ultimately, you kind of have to follow your nature: if you’re an intense, crazy person, that’s just what you’re gonna have to be.”

You must not have problems like that in your own life, you’re the Queen of love, after all! [Ed. Note – Radha means “Queen of love” in Hindi.]
“(laughs) Exactly! I’m definitely an advocate of love, it wouldn’t be in my nature to just marry somebody for security.”

But do you think your name has an influence on your life, or it’s just something that was picked for you by your parents?
“Well, I actually picked it myself when I was a kid!”

You did?
“Yeah, I changed it, but that’s a long story… What was I gonna say? I’m sure it does have an influence in your life, I’m hoping it’s a positive one. What’s your name?”

Kevin.
“What does that mean?”

It’s American. American names don’t mean shit.
“(laughs) It must have some kind of meaning! You should look it up… It may answer some questions. (laughs)”

Another thing that I found surprising in the film is the amount of nudity. Usually, Hollywood movies are more —
“Modest. Yeah, I don’t know if they were necessary, they were certainly interesting… And I do think in one scene, the scene where we break up, it works really well in that you see two people in the bedroom as they would be in the bedroom, no one’s hiding under the sheets. This is reality, and I think that creates a sense of vulnerability, having us both in that state intensifies the scene on some level. Also, there’s a truth to it. It was something that we agreed to experiment with. It did feel uncomfortable, but it also was kind of liberating in a way. You kind of use your clothes as a mask in a way, and if they’re not there, that’s just you, you know?”

What about this being an ensemble piece, how do you approach having all those other storylines beyond your character’s?
“Everyone has their own story, and each story expresses some different aspect of the theme, which is love and communication. There’s a story of youthful, idealistic vision of life, then there’s the thirties kind of complexity and all the anxiety that goes with taking responsibility for taking lifelong choices and having some sense of what that means, and then there’s a story of being abandoned, and then there’s a story of being with somebody with so long, and the deep kind of friendship that occurs in a relationship of 50 years. So you’re given the complete menu for the Feast of Love.”

Thanks for wrapping this up so neatly!

At this point, we’re interrupted by a publicist who tells me that I have time for one last question so, geeky little boy that I am, I ask Mitchell if she intends to make more genre flicks like “Silent Hill” and “Pitch Black”:

“To be honest, I quite like sci-fi and horror and sort of the fantasy aspect of those kinds of movies, but my heart is more with films within the naturalist tone, that are exploring relationships or humanity and concepts like that. That’s closer to me, but it is fun to imagine things, to create a story that could only come to life in a movie.”

Superbad


I don’t think I’ve ever identified this much with a high school movie. Which is not to say that this is the best I’ve ever seen. To name only one title, “Say Anything” is probably the crowning achievement in the genre but, as much as I’d like to think I was like Lloyd Dobbler when I was 17, um, no. I was way more like the guys in “Superbad”: awkward, uncool and horny!

This film, which Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg allegedly started to write when they were still teenagers themselves (I actually wrote a script about my experience of high school while I was going through it too, now that I think of it), is an ode to male camaraderie, to the kind of friendship that is truly life-saving in that context. You might not fit in with the popular assholes, you might be unable to get things going with the ladies and you might feel that your whole life will be a series of such failures and inadequacies, but when you got a buddy or two to shoot the shit, vent and have way too much fun with, things ain’t so bad.

If I say that the film is about a relationship between guys who are “one cock in the mouth shy of being gay”, you might recall that I wrote the same thing about Knocked Up and that, not insignificantly, I first heard this juicy phrase I keep using when I interviewed Kevin Smith. It makes sense because “Superbad” was produced by Knocked Up writer-director Judd Apatow, and both movies owe more than a passing debt to the Smith oeuvre. Not just for those “hetero lifemates” relationships, but also for the non-stop profanity and pop culture references found in the dialogue!

The simple but perfect premise has three high school misfits going through a school day bullshitting about their dreams of going to parties and getting laid, then they get a chance to do just that, but first they have to score a whole lot of booze so they can get the girls they’re after drunk and better their chances of getting into their panties. A lot of outrageous stuff happens to them in the process, involving among other things their path repeatedly crossing that of two dumbass cops (Rogen and Bill Hader). But the heart of the movie is in the brilliant back and forth between BFFs Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), with sensational, scene-stealing support from third wheel McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). I wrote above about them all being misfits, but it’s less clean-cut than that. Borrowing from MaryAnn Johanson, I’l describe the difference between them as such:

Did I mention that “Superbad” is the funniest movie I’ve seen in a long time? Some might accuse the film of being juvenile and idiotic, but a) of course it’s juvenile, it’s about teenagers! and b) it’s smart about being stupid, if that makes sense. There are countless gags about dick, pussy and the meeting of the two, but also more highbrow comic references to things like the Coen brothers or Orson Welles. And you gotta love the whole ’70s thing, from the old school studio logos and opening titles to the music and clothes, which make the flick more “Boogie Nights” than “American Pie”. In any case, it’s endlessly hilarious, which is its own reward. Don’t you dare miss this vag-tastic voyage!

Talk to Me


Petey Greene: Wake up Goddammit!

Times are hard. It’s the spring of 1967 and the tension culminated alongside the civil rights movement has not only reached its boiling point but is about to boil right over. When the movement’s most prominent leader, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, his messages of brotherly love and non-violent approaches to change are forgotten. Riots erupted nationwide in over 60 cities as an immense collection of anger was expressed through unrest and displaced ferocity. In Washington D.C., the city was calmed in part by the voice of one man, a radio DJ by the name of Petey Greene. His morning call-in show was the kind of success that unified its listeners and polarized both their spirits and convictions. Petey prided himself on staying true to himself and speaking that truth no matter what the consequence. The people responded to his frank honesty with devotion and respect. So when he went back on the air to talk the people of Washington down off their ledges on the night of Dr. King’s death, it was the trust that had already been established that soothed the fire in the souls; they healed together. After that night, Petey’s career was never the same. “Talk to Me”, the new film by Kasi Lemmons, tells Petey’s inspiring story. Only it doesn’t so much tell it as manipulate it into a conventional narrative about shared friendship and separate dreams designed for maximum emotional impact.

Petey Greene (Don Cheadle) is first discovered by Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he broadcasts in prison. The two men are instantly placed in juxtaposition to each other in the context of the film. Petey may be in a literal prison but Dewey is in a prison of his own design. The two will need each other to break out and reach the heights of their potential but they must first get past their instinctual dislike for each other. From where Dewey stands, Petey is the kind of black man what gives everyone else a bad name by playing to type and giving into violent, illegal impulses. Meanwhile, from where Petey stands, Dewey has sold his soul to the white man, walking and talking like his white colleagues in an effort to hide his black skin as best he can. The irony is that they both feel that the other is doing a great disservice to the community and that they themselves are role models for the new black identity. Both actors give strong, commanding performances. Cheadle pushes his versatility further as the raucous button-pusher with a turn that is both volatile and reckless. On the other side of the glass, Ejiofor exhibits restraint and an internalized fire that gives his intentions away no matter how hard he tries to mask them. Both could be contenders come awards season if the words coming out of their mouths weren’t so formulaic and plain.

While Lemmons may not have made “Talk to Me” into the socially telling film it could have been, she does manage moments of insight, tension and brotherhood. Most of these moments are found in the broadcast booths and offices of real life R&B music station, WOL. Prior to getting a job at the station, Petey had grown comfortable speaking his mind to whoever would listen. Whoever would, would always be limited in number. When finally faced with his first time at the mic, expectations are high. After all, Petey has the pressure of being a natural and he’s never had to perform for anyone but himself before. He’s also never had to watch his tongue before, but he, along with the station owners, soon learns that in order for Petey to be Petey, he’s got to just let the words flow. That said, he also learns that a powerful voice comes with responsibility so in order to continue having that voice in such a public and corporate forum, he can only push the line so far. After all, no matter real the station tries to keep it, the white suits who run the show and sign Petey’ checks have sponsors to answer to.

It’s a shame that a movie with such a funky soundtrack would be lacking in so much soul but “Talk to Me” still manages to keep a solid enough groove to keep it alive. I just wish Lemmons had spent more time heeding Petey Greene’s message, to keep it real because the truth is what people respond to above all else. Instead, the watered down reality of Petey’s path to fame and examination of the relationships that got him there has been mangled and crammed into a pretty picture that the masses can enjoy. The story of a man who told it like it was is told here as politely as Hollywood will allow.

Review by Joseph Bélanger

Rush Hour 3


Whereas a flick like “The Bourne Ultimatum” surpasses expectations and pushes the boundaries of the genre, this third pic in the “Rush Hour” franchise is content rehashing the same old odd couple, buddy cops, fish out of water formulas that were already well-worn when they showed up in the first flick in 1998.

Chris Tucker is still brash, loud-mouthed and either hilarious, obnoxious or both at the same time. Jackie Chan remains more low-key, the straight man of the duo, but when the going gets tough, so does he. Even at 53, Jackie can still move! In fact, I think he gets to shine more action-wise here than in the two previous movies, running, jumping and kicking it all around, building up to an insane climactic showdown up in the Eiffel tower.

The plot, which involves Triad members up to no good in Paris, is inconsequential and predictable (I knew Max von Sydow shouldn’t be trusted the moment he showed up), but it rolls along at a nice enough clip (though, again, antiquely slow compared to “The Bourne Ultimatum”) and it does work as an excuse for a free-for-all homage to Asian action cinema, from old kung fu flicks (look for a reversal of the Bruce Lee / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fight in “Game of Death”, as Tucker takes on the world’s tallest Asian!) to John Woo’s gangster movies (watch Tucker work twin handguns in a hospital, “Hard Boiled”-style!). Brett Ratner doesn’t come near to transcending his influences like Tarantino did in “Kill Bill”, but we’re more or less on the same level of silly fun as Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China”.

We also get a few more laughs out of Tucker getting his groove on (his first scene has him singing and dancing to Prince’s Do Me, Baby while directing traffic!), and even Jackie gets to sing with him in one number, a rendition of Roberta Flack’s The Closer I Get to You… Which kind of suggests that Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson are not entirely unaware of the latent homoeroticism in all buddy cop movies. I should mention that before Tucker and Chan’s triumphant bromantic reconciliation through serenade à la “Moulin Rouge!”, the two hetero lifemates have a falling out illustrated by a sad bastard montage, set to Elton John’s Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, which includes a ridiculously awesome reference to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”.

Of course, all the clichés about France are also poked fun at and, more interestingly, a few French actors are given supporting roles, including Noémie Lenoir, Julie Depardieu and especially Yvan Attal, who’s quite amusing as a cab driver who’d like to know what it’s like to be an American and “kill people for no reason”! As for the cameo by filmmaker Roman Polanski, it’s more odd than funny.

Altogether, “Rush Hour 3” is nothing new and not even particularly good, but as old school entertainment, it does the job. It lacks the relative freshness of the first installment, but it’s noticeably better than the second one. Adjust your expectations accordingly and you should have a fun time.

Rescue Dawn


Dieter Dengler: “When something is empty, fill it. When something is full, empty it. When you have an itch, scratch it.”

For what feels like the first time in the last five years, someone has crafted a war movie that is not concerned with drawing loose comparisons between itself and America’s War on Terror, in an effort to criticize the already heavily debated validity of the war. German director, Werner Herzog, is more interested in telling a story ripe enough with its own depth and desperation to capture the viewer’s attention without having to rely on political disparagement and moralistic preaching to give the film its ultimate significance. “Rescue Dawn” tells the true story of Dieter Dengler, a German-born aircraft pilot for the American Navy (played here by the almost always stellar, Christian Bale), who has been sent to Vietnam in 1965, at a time when America’s intentions for Vietnam were not yet clear to the general population. He expected to get some flying time in but had no concept of what was actually in store for himself (much like the American government). Shot down on his first time out over Laos, Dieter is captured by locals and imprisoned in a camp along with a handful of other men. What he and his fellow prisoners endure in their enforced seclusion nearly destroys their minds and spirits but also makes for a gripping film about the strength of the human will.

Of course, one can infer criticism of the American government and its military practices in Herzog’s text. Considering the common comparison between America’s invasion of Iraq and their previous invasion of Vietnam as similarly fruitless and devastating war efforts that were potentially unnecessary to begin with, it would be hard not to make links between the two. Herzog elevates “Rescue Dawn” though by not making all of this so obvious and allowing viewers to form their own thoughts on the subject. Still, it is hard not to condemn the American government for not disclosing the truth behind their involvement in Vietnam, when soldiers are being tortured in combat situations that don’t technically exist on paper. Dengler fights for America but has no idea what America is fighting for. Despite the injustice, if you see no comparison, then you are still left with the compelling character of Dieter Dengler. The naïve, boy-like charm of the pilot who always wanted to fly can always be seen as a distant sparkle in Bale’s eyes. And albeit terribly faint at times, his hope is still enough to inspire the same in the other prisoners when they felt they might never feel anything like that again.

Although the “Rescue Dawn” shoot was probably more like a day of spa treatments when compared with the real life experiences of Dengler and the other detainees, it is clear just from watching that it couldn’t have been easy. Alongside Bale, American actors, Jeremy Davies and Steve Zahn (in his most mature performance, resulting in a complete transformation), fight their way out of suffering. While it has been reported that Zahn lost over 40 pounds for the role (and that there were no trailers on location in Thailand), Davies is seen without his shirt often in the film. His protruding rib cage and twig-like arms are sickening to the point where I had to look away. Meanwhile, Bale and Zahn must battle the elements throughout their ordeal. They are seen going over rapids, being dragged along the dirt, ingesting maggots and being carried away by mudslides. For their perseverance and fortitude alone, Bale and Zahn deserve recognition for these performances. However, it is their embodiment of men long gone and lost to the dark depths of their minds that push themselves to continue when they are running on nothing that will be most memorable in years to come.

Dieter Dengler is humbled by his experience just as I was humbled by “Rescue Dawn”. Dengler is a man of principal with a sense of entitlement that undergoes great growth. He is arrogant when he bombs Vietnam and then expects his captors to extend him the courtesy of using a bathroom. He is smartening up when he will not sign documentation that will supposedly expedite his release and get him home sooner. And he exhibits a newfound sense of responsibility when he takes all the prisoners under his guidance and inspires new faith in their souls while ensuring to equip them with the tools necessary to make their awakened dreams a reality. “Rescue Dawn” brings its characters and its viewers deep into the jungle and shows how there can be a way out for those brave enough to push on towards it.

Review by Joseph Bélanger